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Big news came Wednesday at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) when Steve Ballmer said that they would be releasing a copy of Windows 7 Beta today that the public can actually get their hands on. The Beta build leaked a few weeks prior to the official announcement, and there was a lot of excitement because early reports were saying that it was stable, efficient, and a huge improvement over Vista. Naturally people were wanting to kickoff their downloads early today because grabbing 2.4GB is not a 2-minute task.

Surprise! Right now the Windows 7 site has a message up that essentially says the demand was more than what they anticipated:

Thanks for your interest in the Windows 7 Beta. The volume has been phenomenal–we’re in the process of adding more servers to handle the demand. We’re sorry for the delay and we’ll re-post the Beta as soon as we can ensure a quality download experience.

Over at Lifehacker they managed to scrounge up some direct download links for both the 32-bit and 64-bit versions, which is handy for those wanting to get the download going overnight. Here are the links:

The only problem now is waiting to get your hands on one of the 2.5 million product keys they are handing out for this round of testing. What boggles my mind is the fact that Microsoft isn’t letting people just sign-up so that they could receive the product key, and then let users download the OS from an alternative source if they don’t want to wait (*cough* BitTorrent). Heck, a lot of the people probably have the leaked copy installed and all they need is the product key to activate Windows 7 Beta.

P.S. This Beta release will expire on August 1st, 2009 even after entering the product key. If you don’t enter a product key you can still run Windows 7 Beta for 30 days.